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Observation and Studies


									Personal Observation,
Case Studies,
Research Studies,

CSIT 58 Chapter 9
Personal Observation
   We highly value eyewitness testimony as
    evidence. Problems:
     See or hear what we wish to
     Remember aspects of an experience that are
      most consistent with our background
     What we see or hear is filtered through our
      values, attitudes and expectations.
Eyewitnesses to the Sniper?
Even the expectation of a composite sketch—based on accounts from
   eyewitnesses to Monday's shooting outside a Fairfax County,
   Virginia, Home Depot—came to nothing. "Because of darkness and
   distance and perhaps excitement and adrenaline at the time, we are
   unable to come up with a composite," said Montgomery County
   police Capt. Nancy Demme.
As The Washington Post and other sources noted, the witnesses gave
   "vague and inconsistent accounts," disagreeing on virtually all
   details other than the sex of the apparent shooter. All the witnesses
   agreed they'd seen a man, but some reportedly described a with
   "with dark skin, others with olive complexion, of Middle Eastern
   appearance or Hispanic"; one apparently said he was "not white, not
   black." Such imprecision is mirrored in the descriptions of the killer's
   (or killers') vehicle, which has been variously described a white
   Chevy Astrovan, a Ford Econoliner, and a white panel truck.

Gillespie, Nick. ―Shooting Blind.‖ Reason Online.” 17 Oct 2002. (6 Nov. 2002)
Eyewitness Testimony
Wrongfully Imprisoned
  At the age of 39, James Newsome walked out of a maximum-
  security prison in Illinois after 15 years of wrongful incarceration.
      Newsome was convicted and sentenced to life in prison after
  three witnesses identified him as the man who shot and killed a 72-
  year-old grocery store owner on the South Side of Chicago, even
  though his fingerprints didn’t match those at the scene.
      But in 1994, fingerprint technology proved the real perpetrator
  was a man on death row.
      Newsome was given a settlement of $140,000 by the state, but
  he didn’t think that was enough of an apology.
     Now he’s suing the police officers and the Chicago Police
  Department for millions for gross misconduct.

Sinatra, Amy. ―It’s Him – Or Is It?‖”
   y.html (6 Nov. 2002)
Case Studies
   The study of a particular individual or event.
   Based on observations or interviews
   May be very systematic or superficial
   Vivid case studies should be viewed as striking
    examples rather than as proof.
Evaluating Case Studies
Demonstrates that an outcome is possible. Ask
  Is it typical?
  Are there counterexamples?
  Are there biases in how it’s reported?

Asians are so good at math; there are four of them in my
  algebra class and they have the top scores.
Men are terrible cooks-both my brother and my boyfriend
  have burned dinners this year.
Through the Looking Glass:
Student Perceptions of Online Learning
I logged on to my computer one Sunday evening to find myself
    immediately greeted by an instant message from a 17-year-old
    student in one of my courses. The message was simple: "Help!" As
    I later learned, the student had encountered difficulty in conducting
    Internet research for a class project. She said she felt like Alice in
    Wonderland, having fallen through the looking glass. A computer
    novice, she was relieved to find me online that night and was able
    to finish her assignment.
This is one example of the effect of computers and the Internet on
    students' learning experiences. As distance education becomes
    more popular, and as traditional courses require more online
    assignments, teachers must consider students' perceptions of
    online learning. While many professors and teachers embrace this
    technology, many students experience confusion and frustration.
By Linda Peters
Through the Looking Glass:
Student Perceptions of Online Learning
Linda Peters provides the case of a 17 year old student who felt
   frustrated trying to complete an assignment to prove that teachers
   must consider students’ perceptions of online learning.

You need to ask: Is this typical? Are there counterexamples?
 I have students who take every online course I offer. Some have
  taken almost every online course that is available at the college.
  They must not feel too frustrated and would make good
 Maybe this instructor arranged her class and instructions poorly.
 I was also not impressed by this student using the single word
  message of Help! As an instructor, that frustrates me. I don’t know
  where to start to assist and sometimes I have hundreds of online
  students. It is more effective for a student to ask a question like:
  ―Can you help me understand the Excel formula for step 3?‖
Research Studies
A systematic collection of observations by people
  trained to do scientific research.
This kind of evidence CAN BE very dependable,
  but the research must use the scientific

Studies show that violent computer games cause
  aggressive behavior in children.
A recent report indicates that female college
  students are intimidated by computer classes.
Scientific Method
   Publicly verifiable data
    The data must be obtained under conditions
    such that other qualified people can make
    similar observations and obtain the same

   Precision in Language.
    The language must be precise and consistent.
NOT Verified
In 1986, scientists reported that extremely gifted 12- and
   13-year-olds were especially likely to be left-handed
   and to suffer from allergies.
They proposed that the kids, while in the womb, had been
   overexposed to testosterone, which might have
   triggered both the allergies and the intellectual
   excellence. But this exotic idea vaporized in the
   summer of 1990 when different researchers-Jennifer
   Wiley and David Goldstein of Duke University-did a
   follow-up study; they found no evidence of a link
   between giftedness and left-handedness and allergies
   in children.
From Diestler, Sherry. Becoming a Critical Thinker p. 144
Scientific Method: Control
Minimizing extraneous factors that might affect
  the accuracy and interpretation.
 Use multiple observers
 Do in a controlled environment like a lab

Hard to apply in studies of the social world and
 human behavior. People may behave differently
 when they know they’re being watched.
Evaluating Research #1
   What is the quality of the source?
      Most dependable are journals where the study is
      reviewed by a panel of experts, like the Journal of
      the American Medical Association.
   Has the study been replicated?
      Has more than one study shown the same results?
   Are conditions in the research artificial?
      How similar are the conditions under which the
      research study was conducted to the situation the
      researcher is generalizing about?
Evaluating Research #2
   Is there a reason for someone to have
    distorted the research?
      Money, position, prestige..

   Has the study been selectively chosen?
      Are there studies with contradictory results that
      were not mentioned?

   How far can we generalize, given the research
At a Lecture-Only 12% Listen
Bright-eyed college students in lecture halls aren’t
     necessarily listening to the professor, the American
     Psychological Association was told yesterday.
If you shot off a gun a sporadic intervals and asked the
     students to encode their thoughts and moods at that
     moment, you would discover that:
    About 20% of the students, men and women, are
     pursuing erotic thoughts.
    Another 20% are reminiscing about something.
    Only 20% are actually paying attention to the lecture.
     12% are actively listening.
    The others are worrying, daydreaming, thinking about
     lunch or-surprise-religion (8%)
This confirmation of the lecturer’s worst fears was
    reported by Paul Cameron, 28, an assistant professor
    at Wayne State University in Detroit. The annual
    convention, which ends Tuesday, includes about
    2,000 such reports to 10,000 psychologists in a variety
    of meetings.
Cameron’s results were based on a nine-week course in
    introductory psychology for 85 college sophomores. A
    gun was fired 21 times at random intervals, usually
    when Cameron was in the middle of a sentence.

(Diestler, p. 113)
Has the study been replicated? None stated

Are conditions in the research artificial?
    Is firing a gun to interrupt lectures normal?

How far can we generalize given the research sample?
   A single 9 week introductory course with 85 students
   with one particular teacher.

Are there any biases or distortions in the surveys,
    questionnaires, ratings, or other measurements?
    Unknown, the data collection method was not
The first head-to-head comparison of the nation’s two most popular
     medicines for prostate trouble found that one gives significant
     relief while the other is virtually useless.
The two medicines, Hytrin and Proscar, are taken by millions of older
     men to relieve the symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland.
The study found that Hytrin eases men’s discomfort by about one-
     third, while Proscar works no better than dummy sugar pills.
Prostate drugs generally cost $30 to $45 a month.
The study was financed by Merck & Co., which makes Proscar, and
     Abbott Laboratories Inc., the maker of Hytrin.
Although both companies approved the study’s design, Merck
     discounted its significance as publication approached in today’s
     issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Glenn Gormley, a Merck research official, said that in hindsight,
     the study was not set up properly to answer the question of which
     drug is better.
(Diestler, p. 146 )
Generalizing Based on a Sample
The sample must be:
 Large enough to justify the conclusion. Usually
   the more events or people observed, the
 Possess as much diversity (breadth) as the
   types of events about which conclusions are
 As random as possible to prevent getting
   groups of people that have biased
What’s wrong with this sample?
  In Pennsylvania, where liquor can’t be sold on
  Sunday, 2,000 people were interviewed at a
  beer festival; 96% of those surveyed believed
  that the Sunday ban on liquor sale is outdated.
  Clearly, Philadelphians (where the festival was
  held) disapprove of the law, commonly called
  a Blue Law.
Surveys & Questionnaires
   The survey has to be answered truthfully.
    People often give answers they think they’re
    supposed to give.
   Questions may be ambiguously worded.
   The wording of the question may be biased.
   Answers can even vary based on the position
    of the question in the survey and how the
    survey is presented.

Previous slide answer: Those surveyed were attending a beer festival
Conclusion and Question
Here’s a conclusion based on a survey:
  A U.S. congressman sent a questionnaire to his
  constituents and received the following results: 92%
  were against government-supported child-care centers.
The question that was asked:
  Do you believe the federal government should provide
  child-care centers to assist parents in rearing their
(Textbook page 135)
Flaws in the Survey
Leading words: to assist parents in rearing their children
What if you substitute: to assist parents who are unable to
  find alternative child care while they are working?

Could you generalize these results to all parents in the
Maybe there is a bias to people who return surveys from
  their politicians.
Analogies as Evidence
Proving a conclusion about something unfamiliar by
  relying on similarity to something more familiar or that is
  easier to study.

A researcher may report that when rats are confined to an
   overcrowded cage, they exhibit antisocial behavior; a
   conclusion is then drawn about humans, comparing
   crowded rats to city dwellers. The researcher may imply
   that crime is a result of overcrowded conditions.

(Diestler, p. 169)
Evaluating Analogies
1.   The number of ways the two things being
     compared are similar.
2.   The relevance of the similarities and the
3.   Try to generate your own alternative analogies
     to better understand.

End of Chapter 9 Lecture

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